If shrimp isn’t already on your weekly dinner rotation, it certainly should be! Shrimp cooks quickly, pairs well with nearly everything and is extremely versatile. Although, the massive pros come along with a few small negatives. Occasionally it can be easy to overcook your shrimp, and yes, preparing them can be a challenge, but don’t let that stop you from cooking up a storm. Here are our best tips for avoiding any bite-sized mistakes when cooking shrimp:
Best if Used By…
When fresh shrimp is on the menu (which it totally should be), be sure to saute, grill, fry or bake the shrimp within 24 hours of purchasing them fresh. But if you do buy frozen, keep an eye out for shrimp that have been harvested as close to your home as possible. No matter where or when you buy them, here’s a general rule for fresh or frozen – if the shrimp smell even the slightest bit like ammonia, toss them in the trash. They’ve definitely gone bad, and aren’t worth the risk.
Tis the Season
Because, well, it does. Shrimp have a naturally sweet, mild, oceany flavor so they can handle quite a bit of seasoning. They can be added to so many different styles of dishes from all over the world, so the type of seasoning you use depends on the entree you have in mind. If you’re unsure of what to use, there’s one seasoning you can always rely on, and that’s sea salt.
Trust us, we’ve all done it. You’ll know that your shrimp have cooked too long when they lose all of their yummy flavors and become rubbery. Yuck. Unfortunately, to make it even more difficult, shrimp continue to cook after they’re removed from the heat. As a result, be mindful to factor that into the actual cooking time. Our rule of thumb – if they’re still straight then your shrimp are not quite done yet if they are perfectly cooked the tail will slightly curl into a C-shape and drastically overcooked shrimp will form a complete O-shape. “O” for overcooked…see what we did there?
Take it Easy
When it comes to shrimp, the easy route means buying them peeled and deveined. If you’re new to the shrimp game, the prep process is the most difficult and frustrating, but also easily avoidable. The biggest risk of buying fresh shrimp is failing to remove the full vein or mangling the shrimp from overhandling, but if you buy the shrimp pre-peeled and deveined, you won’t have any issues. If you don’t have the time to properly prep the fragile shrimp or this is your first time cooking with shrimp, make it easy on yourself by purchasing them already prepped.
Marinade with Care
Most people have no clue how long is too long when it comes to marinating shrimp. We wish it was a straightforward answer, but we do have a general process! If the marinade is acidic or includes citrus, plan on marinating for 30 minutes or less. If it’s non-acidic, such as with olive oil, herbs or garlic, 1-3 hours is best. No matter how you’re marinating, always make sure the shrimp stay in the fridge!
Brine baby, brine
Most types of shrimp will benefit from the simple, inexpensive process of brining, no matter how you plan on cooking them. Brining is like a marinade but instead of flavoring, it’s sole purpose is to keep food tender and moist. Brining can be used with any time of shrimp, either raw shelled shrimp or raw peeled and deveined shrimp. Here’s the best way to go about brining your shrimp: (Note- you can use either kosher or table salt, but the measurements won’t be equal. 1 cup of table salt without iodine is equal to 1.5 cups of kosher salt). Mix ¼ cup kosher salt with ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup boiling water and 2 cups of ice. Add shrimp into a bowl of brine and let sit for 20-30 minutes for peeled shrimp and 40-60 minutes for your unpeeled shrimp. Rinse well with cold water and pat dry afterward.
That’s all there is to it! These tips are absolutely necessary if cooking up tender, flavorful shrimp is your goal. No matter how you prepare your meal, it all comes down to finding a good recipe, being patient with the prep work and staying close to your stove during the cooking process. As always, if you discover that making shrimp just isn’t your thing and you’d prefer to eat out, we’ll happily have a table ready for you at Julington Creek Fish Camp!